Zero Waste Flooring
We built our house three years ago and as with all good things in life, at some point we hit a glass ceiling. We took every floor plan addition we could make and skimped on the flooring, knowing we’d have to replace it relatively quickly. After three years, our living room carpet had been chewed up and spit out by our kids.
I had a lot of friends tell me I was being too picky and it was better than their carpets. If your carpet looks like this, I do not judge. I am 100% in happy carpet land with you.
If, on the other hand, worn out carpet in your own home and not other people’s bothers you, and you save up several times over several years and have to spend the money on other things and then finally have money in the bank to get new living room flooring, then you understand my joy.
But first you have to understand that this project created a bit of angst for me.
Our first home was built in the 1920s and had hardwood floors throughout. When we moved into our brand new house (pre zero waste!) I was elated to have squishy wall to wall carpet. Until the carpet died. It was gross because I knew what had been smushed into it.
I first looked into better quality carpet, but that created a zero waste dilemma for me because carpet is a huge contributor to landfill waste in the US each year. An important zero waste principle is to ask what you’ll do with something when you’re done with it. I didn’t want to be throwing out more carpet in 10 or 20 years. There is one carpet recycling program I was able to find, but there aren’t any facilities in my area (you can click here to search for a center).
Laminate was out because it’s plastic, and plastic is difficult to recycle. I looked into cork but it seemed too engineered (a lot of energy to manufacture it?) and looked a little too non-traditional for me. I also looked into wool, but I’m committed to not yelling at my kids for being messy, since they’re kids, and wool is way too expensive for kids.
Which left me with hardwood. Initially I wasn’t excited excited about it because in my soul I really kind of wanted carpet, but then I realized if it didn’t shampoo itself it wasn’t worth the trouble.
There are some pretty amazing things about hardwood. It turns out that a ridiculously high percentage of American hardwood is sustainably harvested and that the stock is actually increasing, despite increasing demand. There is definitely not a maple shortage in my area. Hardwood floors also last forever – for example the floors in our first house that are nearly one hundred years old and still look amazing. You do have to refinish them periodically and I haven’t yet researched eco friendly finishing products, but overall it seemed like our best option.
And here it is – our beautiful new floor! I may have spent some time just staring at it.
When the installers came they started to rip up the carpet and I asked if we could keep it in one piece. He looked at me like I had a zit on my forehead. But since he was a nice guy he did take it out in one piece. I put out an email to one of our home school groups and by that afternoon someone had come and taken it. I’m sure eventually it will still end up in a landfill, but this way it will have a second life.
They also left two bags of garbage, which I actually dug through. Most of it was paper, which we composted, cardboard, which we recycled and then pieces of leftover flooring which I’m guessing a kid somewhere would love to build something out of. Overall, we ended up with half a bag of garbage from our installation.
Here’s a before and after:
Now to save up to install hardwood in the next carpeted area…